Sophie Guest takes center stage in horror series 'Them'
You'd be hard-pressed to find many 15-year-olds who have worked with Tom Cruise, Shailene Woodley and one of the "Stranger Things" kids.
Then again, most teenagers aren't Sophie Guest, a Pittsburgh native who's been acting in film and TV productions since landing a small role in Cruise's 2012 film "Jack Reacher" when she was 6.
Guest's latest project, the horror anthology series "Them," was released recently on Amazon Prime Video and might be her meatiest part yet. It's a drama about the terrors experienced by a Black family in the 1950s after they move from North Carolina to mostly white East Compton, California.
"It's not something I would've expected I would've done," Guest said. "I'm so glad I did do it. I love movies that mess with your mind and leave you thinking. 'Them' definitely leaves you thinking."
Guest says "acting kind of found me." Her sister Meagan, now 25, used to work as a model, and her agent suggested that her little sister audition for "Jack Reacher." She had no idea what an audition was when she found herself in front of director Christopher McQuarrie, who went on to helm the last two "Mission Impossible" movies. Her character didn't have any lines, so the casting folks had her explain how to make pancakes instead.
"I got the part, so I guess something went right," Guest said.
She was so young at the time that she filmed "Jack Reacher" and other movies that she's forgotten some of the details. Her mom reminded her of the time that McQuarrie called her into his office to go over a scene that involved gunshots. He asked the child actor if she knew who Tom Cruise was, which, bless her youthful heart, she did not.
Guest also played the part of the Cleveland Browns quarterback's daughter in the 2014 film "Draft Day" with Kevin Costner. Just before a scene in which actor Tom Welling picked her up in celebration, she told the cast she had a joke for them. Her mother held her breath, fearing she would say something inappropriate.
"Why did the coach go to the bank?" the little girl asked. "To get his quarter back," was the punchline, prompting a huge sigh of relief from her mother.
She's also credited on IMDb as "Little Girl at Airport" in the 2014 teen dramedy "The Fault in Our Stars." Guest remembers Woodley sharing figs and dates with her on set and how jealous her sisters were when she had lunch with Ansel Elgort.
"I've been so blessed to have had these experiences at 6 and 7," she said.
On "Them," Guest portrays Doris, a character she described as "very manipulative." Though she's nothing like Doris, she said it's fun to play someone so different from your own personality and life experiences.
"Them" also gave her a crash course in concepts like housing segregation and redlining, which helped shape the racial makeup of neighborhoods all over the country.
"The '50s weren't that long ago, and it's still here now," Guest said. "It taught he how prevalent that terror was and is still here. It amazes me and makes me sad and angry."
She said the horror series mines the same socially conscious vein as Jordan Peele's films "Get Out" and "Us." Since it's an anthology show, she isn't sure if Doris will be brought back for a potential second season, but she's hopeful.
Next up, you can catch Guest in the Pittsburgh-shot film "Dear Zoe," which stars Sadie Sink ("Stranger Things") as a young woman grieving the death of her little sister. Guest plays one of Sink's school friends in the movie slated to be released later this year.
"It's so cool to work with someone that you've seen on screen," she said. "I love 'Stranger Things,' and I thought it was so cool to meet one of (the cast members). It was so crazy to see someone your age doing what you want to do, and then you get to meet her."
Like any rising teen star, Guest has to balance being a kid with her acting work. Her goal is to stay grounded.
"I'm just trying to be a teenager, going to school, playing sports, playing guitar," she said. "I'm just trying to have a normal life while managing a career."
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